BWW Interview: WRITER, DIRECTOR AND ACTOR JOEY BUCHEKER
It sounds like old-fashion Christmas fun.
JB: Funny enough this has recently come full circle. I really didn't come to performing until I was in 7th grade which I think is really late in the game. My Social Studies teacher whom I adored named Florence Sodus was directing a play called Broomstick Beauties (don't ask) and told me I'd be perfect for it and she thought I'd be a natural on stage. Well, I was bit. Fast forward to October of this year where Betsy and I were playing our largest audience of Besty Carmichael's BINGO Palace for an audience of 300+ (that's a lot of people playing BINGO). I spotted her in the audience and Betsy said "oh look it's my dear friend Florence". Afterward she stayed and we hugged and talked and I said I hope you know that you are why I do this. She said she didn't and we both burst into tears and hugged again.
MCL: What was the first show you were in?
JB: Broomstick Beauties...skip it. Professionally, where I was getting paid was a Christmas revue. Ironically, Mary Kate O'Connell my writing partner and friend first met when I was 17 playing Barnaby to her Dolly in Hello, Dolly! produced by O'Connell & Company. That was my first big professional role.
MCL: Talk about a few of your favorites?
JB: Looking back I've done a lot of work in my past 25+ years. Loved doing Dolly. I've done many productions around the country, only ever as Barnaby including with Carole Cook who was the second woman to ever play the part. Emcee in Cabaret was a dream come true. I'd love to tackle that again now that I'm older. West Side Story made me a stronger dancer and the cast was top notch...several cast members are on broadway now. I could do that show forever (except I'm pushing 40 now). Tony n' Tina's Wedding off-broadway was pure fun and taught me how to be quick on my feet. Southern Baptist Sissies was a dream show with a brilliant cast and it really let me act. Naked Boys Singing was liberating. I never have dreams about being naked in public anymore. Act of God which is basically a 90 minute one person show is the hardest I've ever worked but it taught me that I could do anything if I put my mind to it and honestly Betsy is exhausting but so rewarding. I've traveled with her to Chicago, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Providence, Jersey...people just love her. She brings joy and happiness everywhere she goes.
MCL: You also Direct ... What started you Directing?
JB: I didn't want to be a director. I wanted to be an actor/choreographer. I feel you can choreograph a show and still perform which I do a lot. I don't think a stage actor should ever direct themselves. I know people do it but they shouldn't. It's not fair to the other actors or to themselves. Anyway, I started directing out of necessity. I started a company and had an idea for Godspell but couldn't find the right director and a friend said, you have a vision...direct it and I was free. So I did. I found I was good at it. I think this is because I approach it as an actor and here we are. My first love is always acting but I'm a Capricorn, telling people what to do comes naturally.
MCL: If you could only do one ... which one?
JB: Perform. I love the process. Don't get me wrong, during the process I sometimes think, why the hell do I do this to myself? But overall, you are continuously learning and growing. I love a long run because it allows that growth and discovery. I won't lie, I'm a comic actor by nature and an audiences laughter is pretty great.
JB: Betsy is not a diva. Well, not in the negative sense. She is pure joy and fun. She is an escape from all the negativity and hard aches of the world. She just wants to have a good time and wants all of her guests to do the same. It's BINGO...she's not curing cancer but she will help you laugh and forget your troubles.
JB: So, The Betsy Carmichael Christmas Special is not exactly new. It debuted in 2016 and was a huge success. It is essentially a sequel or continuation of her show, Betsy Carmichael's BINGO Palace. I hate sequels and did not want to do this. I had just gotten the original show to where I want it to be (most shows go through workshop phases and change and grow before they are the show we see and know today) and I just didn't want the same show but now with Santa hats and elves and call it the Christmas version like so many shows now do. Mary Kate persisted (actually she announced it in the season) and I finally said okay but it had to be different then the original. I wanted it to be like an old-fashion Christmas Special we used to watch on TV. Betsy has lived a long life and she has many more stories and a lot to share. I really do love the Christmas Special. It has so much heart.
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